Rapid Review: The Nice Guys (2016)

the nice guys poster

“I think I’m invincible… I don’t think I can die!”
– Holland March

SYNOPSIS: A mismatched pair of private eyes investigate the apparent suicide of a porn star in 1970s Los Angeles. – via IMDB

the nice guys gun toss

GRADE 7You know, I went into this with pretty high expectations. Not impossible, but pretty high. You all know I freaking love Lethal Weapon and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. I wasn’t expecting anything on that level, but I was expecting more than I got. The Nice Guys looked and sounded good, I will give it that. The outfits were fantastic and it was shot well, and the movie did pay attention to little details, and I always appreciate the smaller things. It was consistent with that, too. I also really liked the ’70’s vibe here, it was great. But then there were the pitfalls. For one, the little girl irked me. Hell yeah she did. What the heck is up with Shane Black writing in these pesky little kids as huge characters (hem hem Iron Man 3)?! It is so grating. Not because Angourie Rice isn’t a decent young actress, but because I do not want to be watching a movie with private investigators and having them drag some obnoxious little rugrat around. Okay, I will stop there on that. As you can tell that irritated me no end. Moving on from the little girl, the movie isn’t as smart as it would like to be, either, and the humour was not as sharp, and the dialogue was not as witty as I was expecting from someone like Shane Black. The cast was really good though, all things aside. Gosling was on fine form here (though I expected no less, and he can totally handle a comedic role), and Crowe was solid, as always. The two also work wonders with each other, so at least Black’s pairings still work without a hitch. There were scenes that entertained (I thoroughly enjoyed the elevator scene), but I did not have any real laugh out loud moments. Oh well. The Nice Guys is a decent, albeit hollow, watch. Nothing I will be rushing out to see again, that’s for sure, and not something I will be in a hurry to add to my collection. I will give it another shot again sometime. Maybe something changes, but I don’t really think so.


Review: A Beautiful Mind (2001)

a beautiful mind poster

“Imagine if you suddenly learned that the people, the places, the moments most important to you were not gone, not dead, but worse, had never been. What kind of hell would that be?”
– Dr Rosen

John Nash (Russell Crowe) starts at Princeton University in 1947. There on the Carnegie Scholarship for mathematics, he is definitely the odd one out. He has difficulty making friends, and does not start on a good foot with his classmates. Martin Hansen (Josh Lucas) and he have a terrible rivalry due to both being there on the same scholarship. He sort of befriends a group of bright science and math graduates – Ainsley (Jason Gray-Stanford), Bender (Anthony Rapp) and Richard Sol (Adam Goldberg). His most unlikely friendship however is with his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany), who is a little bit of a crazy literature student.

a beautiful mind nash on campus
“Classes will dull your mind, destroy the potential for authentic creativity.” – John Nash

Nash is faced with extreme pressure to come up with something brilliant, something amazing and make his way in life from there. He will not write any paper and be published, though. It has to be original, it has to be fresh and defining – it has to be the one. A random idea strikes him while listening to his friends talk, and freshly defines governing dynamics. Due to his latest breakthrough, Nash is offered a job at MIT, and he chooses Sol and Bender to join him.

a beautiful mind
“Man is capable of as much atrocity as he has imagination.” – William Parcher

Nash has risen in esteem, though he seems not to be the most patient or gifted teacher. He does some work at the Pentagon where he has to crack a code, and shocks codebreakers when he deciphers the code mentally. Feeling his talents are lost at MIT, he jumps at the opportunity that William Parcher (Ed Harris) gives him. It is a top secret assignment that is perfect for Nash. He has to crack codes from magazines and newspapers for the United States Department of Defence to foil a Soviet plan. His discoveries are to be delivered to a secret mailbox.

Nash falls in love with his student, Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly) after she makes all the relevant moods. Now Nash has a family, and this complicated the work he is doing for the government. Nash meets up with his best friend, Charles, and is introduced to Charles’ niece, Marcee (Vivien Cardone). They get along famously. Soon Nash marries Alicia and she becomes pregnant, and their lives begin. However, the work with Parcher gets out of hand, and Nash seriously needs to rethink how things will work, and tries to get out of the business, though Parcher will not let him go. All the strings come loose at a guest lecture at Harvard University when Nash tries to run from Dr. Rosen (Christopher Plummer), whom he believes is a Soviet agent. Nash is taken to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.

a beautiful mind nash's office

Soon it becomes evident that Nash is a schizophrenic, and that Charles, Marcee and Parcher are figments of his imagination. Alicia will not accept that her husband is a lunatic, and investigates. Her, Sol and Bender establish that Nash really is losing his mind, and that so much that he believes is real is actually not. Nash undergoes numerous types of therapy to “fix” him, and is eventually released. Alicia and Nash try to piece their lives together, but Nash is embittered about the pills that he needs to take. They affect his mind – he cannot do mathematics anymore, and he cannot be with his wife or care for his child.

a beautiful mind nash in love
“I’ve made the most important discovery of my life. It’s only in the mysterious equation of love that any logic or reasons can be found. I’m only here tonight because of you. You are the only reason I am… you are all my reasons.” – John Nash

How will the couple overcome the difficulties of Nash’s disease if he refuses to take the pills and acknowledge there is a problem? Nash cannot live a life without mathematics, and is taking the blow terribly hard of not being able to be the promising genius he was supposed to be. His friends and wife stand by him, and are all desperate to help him by and make things right. Martin Hansen becomes incredibly important to Nash’s recovery or acknowledgement of the issue. Will Nash ever be the genius, ever be respected for the evidently phenomenal mind that he has? Will he even be able to be the mathematical prodigal again and be honoured for it?

After an incident where Nash endangers his infant son and accidentally knocks Alicia and the baby to the ground (thinking he’s stopping Parcher from killing her), she flees the house in fear with their child. Nash steps in front of her car to prevent her from leaving. He tells Alicia, “She never gets old”, referring to Marcee, who although years have passed since their first encounter, has remained exactly the same age and is still a little girl. With this, he finally accepts that although all three people seem real, they are in fact part of his hallucinations. Against Dr. Rosen’s advice, Nash decides not to restart his medication, believing that he can deal with his symptoms in another way. Alicia decides to stay and support him in this.

Nash approaches his old friend and rival, Martin Hansen, now head of the Princeton mathematics department, who grants him permission to work out of the library and audit classes. Years pass and as Nash grows older he learns to ignore his hallucinations. Eventually he earns the privilege of teaching again.

A Beautiful Mind garners a solid 9/10. I know it was based loosely on John Nash, but loosely or not it was a heartrending story. It was stunning, yet so sad. It depressed me. Genius and madness really do share the same side of the coin. I thought Russell Crowe nailed his role, he was absolutely perfect, and depicted Nash as someone I felt so sorry for yet could not help but admire and respect just for his sheer intellect. It was a great cast that they put together, truly, and the camerawork was fantastic. For me it was an incredibly gripping story and did not have one dull moment in it. It is worth the watch. I have not seen it in years, but it struck me deeply once more when I watched it again. I honestly felt that this was one of Crowe’s truly defining roles. Nash’s story is sad, and the brief read that I looked into shows that they were more or less accurate in the rendering of his life and his madness as well as how it all progressed. There were so many times that I was just sitting there wishing someone would see these figments in his mind just to validate his paranoia. The anger I experienced with how he was mocked and ridiculed is beyond measure. People can be the cruelest and most truly vile and nasty things under the sun, so undeserving of respect. This movie kept me riveted – if you have not seen it, get on that immediately!

Review: American Gangster (2007)

American Gangster Poster

“This is my home. My country. Frank Lucas don’t run from nobody. This is America.”
– Frank Lucas

Harlem gangster Ellsworth “Bumpy” Johnson (Clarence Williams III) dies of a heart attack, leaving his new right hand man, Frank Lucas (Denzel Washington), in a precarious position. He is not impressed with the gangsters that are trying to take over after Bumpy’s demise, and is battling to figure out how he is to regain control over all that is going down. Eventually he has the idea to buy heroin directly from the suppliers in Thailand, product that is virtually one hundred percent pure and sells it at half the price of the competitors. He has the drugs smuggled in by military planes and the assistance of military personnel. This leads to him becoming vastly rich in an incredibly short period of time and gaining the monopoly over Harlem.

“Twenty percent.”- Frank

Detective Richie Roberts (Russell Crowe) and his partner Detective Javier Rivera  (John Ortiz) are in the dog box when they perform a bust and turn almost a million dollars in to evidence. Honesty has them reviled and they are on the end of the wrong stick. Richie is already in the middle of a messy divorce as well as attempting to put himself through night school. His partner gets hooked on drugs and Richie gets pulled in to try and cover it up. Rivera dies and Richie discovers “Blue Magic” heroin on him, and starts to ask questions. Richie gets asked to head up a drug trafficking task force by Captain Lou Toback (Ted Levin) to work specifically on taking down actual suppliers as opposed to the middle-men.

“Frank Lucas is the most dangerous man walking the streets of our city.” – Richie

Lucas is making a fortune off of his blue magic and soon moves his entire family up to stay with him, makes his five brothers his lieutenants, buys nightclubs to control other seedy industries and is doing well for himself. At one of his clubs he meets his future wife, Eva (Lymari Nadal), a luscious Puerto Rican beauty queen. Lucas rapidly becomes one of the biggest gangsters and dealers that Harlem has ever seen. Aside from being ruthless, Lucas is smart and low-key, thinking that it is unnecessary to draw more attention to himself than is necessary. However, one night out at the fights in a garish outfit that his wife chose for him makes him stick out to Richie, who wonders how he is better seated than the Italian Mafia. Richie decides to investigate him.

“The most important thing in business is honesty, integrity, hard work… family… never forgetting where we came from.” – Frank

Lucas is dealing with his own problems dealing with encroaching rivals such as Lucchese mafia and local crime lords as well as corrupt cops such as Nick Trupo (Josh Brolin). Lucas needs to protect his empire, though this becomes tricky with the Fall of Saigon – his supplier has been lost. Lucas is looking for alternate ways to make things work while retain his authority, while at the same time Richie Roberts is hot at his heels and relentless. Will Richie be able to bust the notorious gangster? Will Lucas be able to maintain his hold over Harlem?

I score American Gangster an 8/10. This film was really excellent, and I enjoyed all of it. I know that it was loosely based on the actual historical events, but it was entertaining nonetheless. I watched an extended edition, and each and every second was well worth it. The cast was great, everyone bringing their everything to the table. I thought that the story was incredibly well executed, and the costume designer also needs congratulations, everything looked authentic for the time. I found Frank to be enigmatic, ruthless, cruel and a stand up man all at once, which could leave one rather confused at the best of times. Denzel Washington gave Frank life on screen and again reminded me why I have such respect for him as an actor. Russell Crowe also delivered another good performance. The way the film progressed was fluid, too, which is nice, no parts where you are wondering how the hell you landed up there.  I must admit I laughed so much when Richie threw that subpoena/warrant through the door then had it broken down with a sledgehammer. Well done! The dialogue was also lovely to listen to, and the story that was told was incredibly good, and interesting all the way through almost three hours of movie time. I would highly recommend this film if you have not seen it, it just works.

Review: Gladiator (2000)


“Your Emperor asks for your loyalty, Maximus. Take my hand, I only offer it once.”
– Commodus

Powerful and respected Roman general, Maximus (Russell Crowe) fights what he hopes is his last battle and emerges victorious. He is to be sent home soon, and misses his family dearly. His emperor, Marcus Aurelius (Richard Harris) loves Maximus like a son, and prior to his death asks that Maximus step up and be the protector of Rome – he chose Maximus over his son, Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix).

“There was a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.” – Marcus Aurelius

Commodus and his sister, Lucilla (Connie Nielsen), meet their father and friend on the battlefield after having missed the entire event. Commodus learns that his father really is on the way out, and is angered when Marcus Aurelius tells him of the plan to appoint Maximus to rule Rome. In a fit of jealous rage, Commodus murders his father to take up the mantle of emperor before it gets out that he was not his father’s chosen successor. When Commodus demands Maximus’s loyalty, he is met with contempt and anger. Maximus knows that the emperor was murdered, and will not swear allegiance. His insolence in the Emperor’s eyes has condemned Maximus and his family to death.

The fall from general, to slave and then gladiator

Managing to escape, Maximus is desperate to get to his family back in Spain first and save them, but he is not in time. He is wounded and injured, yet still gives them a funeral. He loses his will to live and in his weakened state is taken as a slave and nursed back to health by his future friend Juba (Djimon Hounsou). He is then sold off to Proximo (Oliver Reed), a gladiator who won his freedom, and is trained as a gladiator. He has no will to live, though he wishes to honour the promise to Marcus Aurelius and take vengeance on Commodus for what he did to his family. Proximo is adamant that Maximus will fight on the sands, that he will not just stand there. Emerging victorious, the crowds take to the Spaniard as they call him. Proximo sees money, and urges Maximus to win the crowds and their love and adoration – it could save him one day.

"Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?" - Maximus
“Are you not entertained? Is this not why you are here?” – Maximus

Proximo is called to Rome to participate in the new gladiator games that Commodus has announced in honour of his father. In Rome, Commodus soon discovers that Maximus is alive and well and the Spaniard that the crowds love so much. Commodus is angered that he cannot simply kill Maximus and be done with it. On the other hand, his sister is plotting against him with members of the Senate to take him out of power while he is plotting to disband the Senate. Maximus has entered the equation at a very dangerous time, and is intent on seeing Commodus killed for his atrocities. Maximus and his ex-lover both want the same thing, and need to find a way that is suiting to bring the change in Rome about. He has the crowd’s favour and his men’s loyalty on his side, while Lucilla has most of the Senate on her side, most prominently Senator Gracchus (Derek Jacobi).

Will Maximus win his freedom, or ever be granted it after being branded a traitor and deserter? Can Maximus forgive Commodus for his heinous crime and see past Lucilla’s tenuous connection with her brother? Rome needs its protector, and Maximus is intent on honouring Marcus Aurelius’s wish to be such.

A 7.5/10 for Gladiator. Joaquin Phoenix was brilliant, and it amazed me how he pulled off the role of angry, insecure, bitter, whinging, whining and teary eyed Commodus. His scheming was also fantastic. Russell Crowe was a brilliant Roman general, and an equally brilliant gladiator, and his disregard for Marcus Aurelius’s successor is spine tingling. The story was sad, but I must say much less so than I recall it from my youth. Not saying it isn’t good, because it really is an impressive movie, but the extended that I watched felt so short, which shocked me, and the emotional side was somewhat stunted. I just feel that there was a lot going on, but not enough credence was given to how he went from general to gladiator. There was no real shift from the one to the next. The story was solid, the camera work decent, the dialogue was also pretty good, and naturally the story was inspiring in a non-complicated kind of way. There were a lot of mistakes and errors and what not, but overall not bad enough to detract from the viewing experience. Gladiator truly was a great film for its time and it holds up rather well so many years down the road. Whenever watching these shows from that era I am forcefully reminded about what animals Romans were, though they presented themselves as learned and superior in all aspects – never ceases to amaze me.

Review: Body of Lies (2008)

Body of Lies Poster

“See, what’s changed is that our allegedly unsophisticated enemy has caught on to the factually unsophisticated truth – we’re an easy target. We are an easy target. And our world as we know it is a lot simpler to put to an end than you might think.”
– Ed Hoffman

Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a Middle East CIA operative, and incredibly good at what he does. He has rapidly climbed the ranking ladder, and works hand in hand with Ed Hoffman (Russell Crowe), who is his control back at Langley. Ferris is hunting terrorist Al-Saleem (Alon Abutbul), who is bombing on an international level. After gathering intelligence and being almost bombed to death, Ferris’s recovery has him posted to Jordan to continue his search for Al-Saleem. Ferris meets with Hani Salaam (Mark Strong), who is head of the Jordanian General Intelligence Directorate, and brings him into the loop. Ferris is sure that he can use the Jordanians for help, though the only rule is not to lie to Hani.

“You Americans, you are incapable of secrecy because you are a democracy.” – Hani

When Hoffman screws Ferris over by performing his own side missions, they two butt heads. Injured in Hoffman’s side-op, Ferris goes to a local hospital and meets nurse Aisha (Golshifteh Farahani) and starts to fall in love with her. Intent on impressing her, he continues to return to her for his rabies shot, though he could go anywhere else. Hani recognizes small time crook Mustaffa Karami (Kais Nashef) and takes him far out into the desert, intent on turning him into Jordanian intelligence. Hoffman wishes to use Karami, but the Jordanian head will not allow it. Hoffman leaves, and Ferris follows.

In Washington Ferris devises a plan. He feels that he has finally uncovered a way to draw Al-Saleem from the woodwork, but the plan needs to be executed in minute detail. They work together and set up Jordanian architect Omar Sadiki (Ali Suliman), a harmless civilian, to be the next big terrorist. Al-Saleem was unrivaled, before, but Sadiki is his nemesis, his competition, and needs to be taken care of. Ferris feeds Hani the lies of the newest terrorist on the block, and use him to make the ploy seem far more realistic than it really is. The master plan is rapidly falling apart around his ears when Ferris goes to see Aisha and realizes that she has been kidnapped.

Cooking up the master plan

With their plan going very well then hurriedly turning sour, Ferris needs to find a way to fix his royal screw up without any more body count. Aisha is in danger, as well as himself, and Hani has turned his back on Ferris because of the lies that he was fed, even after their deal was for truth to be the only method of communication. Will Ferris survive this, will Hoffman ever learn any real lessons, and will the war in the Middle East ever end?

A 6/10 for Body of Lies. Russell Crowe was amazing in this movie, I thoroughly enjoyed the life he gave his character, though he was an ass. It does not change the fact he rocked the role. Leonardo DiCaprio was great, as always. I felt though that this movie needed to be tightened up in places a bit more, though the idea that they had of “creating” a terrorist was pretty damn cool. It kept you interested, but far too often I found my mind wandering, and then having to reel in back in quickly – so not riveting. I am not sure what I expected of this film, but it is reasonably similar to other movies in this same category, so nothing to blow your mind, make you rethink things or anything like that. The one thing that really saves this film is the performances of Crowe and DiCaprio. There is really not much else to look forward to, to be honest. Far from the greatest film, it is alright to watch, but you will need to keep your wits about you to follow what is going on exactly. It is a serious watch, so unless you have a very serious friends group, I would not really recommend for light movie-night viewing.